Africa

Bodies littered floor of Tripoli hospital

  • 26 August 2011
  • From the section Africa
Media captionThe BBC's Wyre Davies: "When injured people were brought to the hospital there were no hospital staff left to treat them... people were left to die"

What I came across today at a hospital in a Tripoli suburb was one of the most distressing and appalling things I have ever seen in my life.

A once bustling, busy hospital is now littered with bodies - dozens, even hundreds of them.

They were mainly men, but there were also some women and children. They were lying in corridors, on trolleys in wards and even piled up at the hospital entrance.

Why they are all here and how they died is not clear.

What we do know is that the doctors and nurses who usually work here fled for their own lives on Monday when the Abu Salim district erupted in violence.

Many civilians, as well as fighters, were wounded or killed in the battle.

The dead and severely injured were simply left and abandoned at the hospital.

After four days of heavy, intense street fighting the bodies were literally piling up.

'Massacre'

In temperatures of more than 36C, the stench was as appalling as the images were gruesome.

Local people, feeling safer about venturing out of their houses, made a heroic attempt to clean up some of the mess and reclaim their hospital.

Image caption It is impossible, at this stage, to know exactly what happened at the hospital

But their efforts were in vain, so broken was much of the basic infrastructure in Tripoli.

There was no running water, for example, to even attempt washing the bloodstained floors.

Many put the blame for what happened at the hospital on the Gaddafi regime.

Some said that as the colonel lost control of his capital, his forces took brutal revenge on anyone suspected of opposing the man who ruled this country with an iron grip for more than 40 years.

One doctor who had returned to help the clean-up called it a "massacre".

"There are more than 200 bodies here but there is no government in charge. What can we do? We urgently need international help to stop the situation deteriorating," Osama Bilil said.

It is impossible, at this stage, to know exactly what happened at the hospital.

But the horrors I witnessed are a reminder of what Libya and its people have to overcome as they seek to finally defeat one of the most notorious rulers in modern history.